News Iran executes British-Iranian accused of espionage

  • Alireza Akbari is Iran’s former deputy defense minister
  • He was arrested in 2019 and charged with spying for the UK
  • Executions heighten tensions with West
  • Britain’s Sunak calls it ‘callous and cowardly act’
  • US joins UK in condemning ‘barbaric act’

DUBAI/LONDON, Jan 14 (Reuters) – Iran has executed a British-Iranian national who had served as deputy defense minister, Iran’s judiciary said, with calls in London and Washington for his release as he was charged with the death penalty. Spy for Britain.

Britain declares Alireza Akbari’s case politically motivated and condemns execution, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling it a “callous and cowardly act by a brutal regime” .

Akbari, 61, was arrested in 2019.

Iran’s judiciary’s Mizan news agency reported the execution, but did not say when it was carried out. Later on Friday, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley urged Iran not to carry out the sentence.

Also condemned by the United States and France, the execution appeared set to further worsen long-simmering relations between Iran and the West that have soured since talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal stalled and Tehran’s deadly crackdown on protesters last year.

In a recording purportedly from Akbari, broadcast by the BBC in Persian on Wednesday, he said he confessed to crimes he did not commit after being subjected to extensive torture.

“Alireza Akbari, sentenced to death for corruption on Earth and for a wide-ranging operation to endanger the internal and external security of the country through espionage for the intelligence services of the British Government…has been executed,” Mizan said.

The Mizan report accused Akbari of charging €1,805,000 ($1.95 million), £265,000 ($323,989.00) and $50,000 in espionage fees.

Cleverly said in a statement that enforcement “will not be challenged”. He then announced that Britain had summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires, imposed sanctions on Iran’s attorney general and had temporarily withdrawn its ambassador from Tehran for further consultations.

It marked a rare execution by the Islamic Republic of a senior serving or former official. The last time was in 1984, when Iranian naval commander Bahram Afzali was executed after being accused of espionage for the Soviet Union.

The British statement on the case did not respond to Iran’s accusation that Akbari was spying for Britain.

Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported that Iran’s foreign ministry had summoned the British ambassador over what it called London’s “interference in Iran’s national security sphere”.

Iran’s state media, which portrays Akbari as a super-spy, aired a video on Thursday that they said showed him in the 2020 assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh That played a role, with authorities blaming Iran for the deaths in an attack outside Tehran. Israel time.

In the video, Akbari did not admit to being involved in the assassination, but said that a British agent had requested information about Fahrizad.

Iranian state media routinely broadcasts confessions from suspects in politically charged cases.

Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the state media video and audio, or when and where they were recorded.

Akbari is a close ally of Ali Shamkhani, now secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and defense minister from 1997 to 2005. Akbari fought as a member of the Revolutionary Guards during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

In this undated photo obtained on January 12, 2023, Iran’s former Deputy Defense Minister Alireza Akbari speaks during an interview with Khabaronline in Tehran, Iran. Khabaronline/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via Reuters

Akbari’s nephew Ramin Forghani told Reuters the execution was shocking.

“I don’t think a person who grew up serving his country — since the Iran-Iraq war — would spy for any country,” he said, noting that Akbari holds the rank of colonel in Iraq’s Revolutionary Guards.

Akbari’s wife, who lives in London, tried unsuccessfully to persuade Iranian officials to spare his life, he said by phone from Luxembourg. Reuters could not reach her.

“Despicable and barbaric”

The U.S. State Department called the executions politically motivated and unjust. The US ambassador to London called it “shocking and disgusting”. French President Emmanuel Macron called it a “despicable and barbaric act”.

Relations between Iran and the West have also been strained over support for Russia in Ukraine, where the West says Moscow used Iranian drones.

Like other Western countries, Britain, which has long-running tensions with Iran, has been sharply critical of Tehran’s crackdown on anti-government protests, sparked by the September death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman.

Iran has sentenced dozens to death and executed at least four as part of the crackdown.

Britain is actively considering banning the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization but has yet to make a final decision, a British minister said on Thursday.

In a recording broadcast on BBC Persian, Akbari said he had made false confessions as a result of being tortured.

“They used more than 3,500 hours of torture, psychedelic drugs, physical and psychological pressure to deprive me of my will and drive me to the edge of madness…Using force and death threats to force me to make a false confession.” , “He Say.

Amnesty International said the executions again showed Tehran’s “hateful violation of the right to life”. In Akbari’s case, it was “particularly horrifying given his revelations about the abuse he suffered in prison”.

Iranian authorities have not responded to allegations that Akbari was tortured.

A report on Iranian state television – details of which Reuters could not independently verify – said he was arrested in 2008 on espionage charges, was released on bail and left Iran.

In an interview with BBC Farsi on Friday, Akbari’s brother Mahdi said he had returned to Iran in 2019 at the invitation of Shamkhani.

($1 = 0.9235 EUR)

($1 = £0.8179)

Reporting by Dubai Newsroom, Michael Holden in London, Tassilo Hummel in Paris and Kanishka Singh in Washington; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by William Mallard, Angus MacSwan, Tomasz Janowski and Christina Fincher

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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